Daily Post: Take That Rosetta!

If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us TONGUE.

Fluffy says "MEOW"

“Fluffy, just a sweet little feline tongue, not framed by sharp vampire type teeth.”

“Mrs. Human, no self-respecting feline does sweet.”

I decided to end that conversation, felines have their own way of expressing themselves.

I assume the reference to Rosetta is the Rosetta stone. A stone plate inscribed in three languages, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script (whatever that is) and ancient Greek. It probably tells a joke about an Egyptian that could not write, so only did pictures, an educated Egyptian who could write and a Greek that met in the bar etc. etc. You know how those jokes go. I actually saw the original stone in the British Museum and one of our first history lessons in high school mentioned this key to the ancient languages, but I was always doubtful.

I personally think it was a gimmick they invented for the museum, to get the people in. After all the British stole the Parthenon marbles from Greece and the Greeks never forgave them. The museum probably decided to do the Rosetta thing on their own. If it was genuine, then who translated it all? The ancient Greeks did not live side by side with the Egyptians. The Egyptians were already sealed away in their chambers in the pyramids wrapped in bandages when the Greeks learned to write, I am sure. And the Demotics? They were just invented to fill in the stone in the middle, to make it look good. They were also supposed to be Egyptians, but decided to write with dots and curves instead of pictures.

I can see the team of artists sitting in the basement of the British museum chiselling away. “Hey Fred, how shall I do the cat?” “Just scrape a straight line with a curve on each side to represent the ears.” “Good idea Joe, will do. Ow!” “Something wrong Fred?” “The chisel slipped and now I have three curves.” “No problem Joe, they will probably think the cats had three ears.” “Aristotle, how are you progressing with the Greek part?” “OK, luckily we Greeks only have 24 letters.”, or something like that. And so the Rosetta stone was born.

Today I awoke, walked to the kitchen and began to talk to Mr. Swiss in Swiss German. I was even thinking in Swiss German. This did not happen overnight, it took forty-six years and even now it is not “Fehlerfrei” (without mistakes). I am almost fluent in that strange German dialect, get through with French and Italian and if I am really pushed can do it in Russian, although I do not have enough practice with my Russian.

I even spent a year learning Arabic, but this was a thing of impossibility. No-one speaks Arabic (except perhaps some Emirate States), at least not the Arabic I learned. They all do their own thing and even the Arabs amongst themselves do not always understand each other. Of course, there is the so-called high Arabic spoken on the radio and what the kids learn at school, but it all boils down to the place where you grow up.

Waking up tomorrow and speaking a foreign language of your choice would not be my thing. It would be taking a short cut and not suffering the fun of making mistakes on the way. Mr. Swiss still enjoys my mispronunciation of some words in Swiss German, although I am convinced I make no mistakes and he just misunderstands what I actually wanted to say.

Daily Post: Take That Rosetta!

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23 thoughts on “Daily Post: Take That Rosetta!

  1. I guess like R P in English it”ll have to be RP in Arabic. When I went to London to study,I heard a lot of RP among the Brits. It is supposed to be received pronunciation whatever that means. Proper English I guess. In my language there are so many different dialects some of them sound like a different language. To carve out RP out of that would be downright laborious,I’d say.


    • To be quite honest I had never heard of RP. I am english, but grew up in the East End of London so our “street” language was cockney. The schools did their best to correct this and form it into perfect english. Of course when I moved into another country I spoke my idea of good english so that I could be understood, before I began to speak the local lingo. In my english, there remains a hint of cockney when I speak.


    • Some nationalities more than others. Italians really do not seem to care as long as you try, though they might (in my case have) ridiculed me when I wasn’t looking. German friends, however, correct every thing I say that is wrong as I make the mistake; as a result I have yet to utter a complete sentence in German other than “Pretzel mit Lachs, bitte.”


      • I speak Italian more or less. I find the advantage, having an english mother tongue, that if you do not know the word, just use the english one and add an o or a at the end. It usually does the trick.


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  4. Demotic (capitalized, as on the Rosetta Stone) is Egyptian script used to distinguish pre-Coptic dialect from hieroglypohic written language. I’ve been studying Arabic for a little over a year, and I’ve still only scratched the surface. What an incredibly complex language!


    • Actually I was applying my strange humour, but I did learn Arabic for a year and soon discovered that Arabic is not Arabic. The Maghreb states all speak their own dialects, I think the Egyptians come closest to the “normal” Arabic. Our teacher was an Iraqi and she told us that the purest form was the Emirates. I even learned how to write the language. Reminded me of english Pitmans shorthand with the dots and lines for the vowels in the children’s books and the Quran which they leave out as soon as they are adults. and when we progressed to the moon and sun letters I was slowly approaching breaking point. Perhaps I might take it up again.


      • Haha, my apologies. Yes, you are absolutely right about Arabic not being Arabic. My teacher is Syrian. She teaches us three dialects at once: MSA, Masri (Egyptian), and Shami (also called Levantine, spoken in Eastern Mediterranean countries). I’ve become quite good at writing it (I still can’t do it without short vowels and diacritics) generally, and apparently my pronunciation is excellent, but, as you imply, the further into it you get, the more complex it becomes. Even between Syrian and Iraqi there are significant differences, even though they technically speak the same dialect.


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    • Romansch is also not only Romansch. According to where you are, they speak a different dialect and there are five of them (I think). I do understand it a little, as we have TV programmes now and again. It is sort of something Italian, but sounds a bit latin. The people in the area of Graubüden grow up with the langage, but also speak Swiss German otherwise they would have difficulty in communicating with the rest of Switzerland.


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